Have you been thinking about starting a garden? It’s the perfect time to start planning and building your garden for the season with spring here!
There are many benefits to gardening. The veggies taste incredible, it rejuvenates the mind, body and soul, it strengthens relationships, gives children responsibility while developing a skill, and you can take pride in growing these stunning veggies, herbs, or flowers.
- Stay home if you have been travelling or do not feel well. Here is an excellent resource if you are quarantined. This will help you find people in Manitoba who are willing and able to help you while quarantined. Help Next Door Manitoba
- Go out with people within your household, but practice social distancing (2 metres away) with other groups.
- Please call ahead before visiting a business and inquire about their regulations to enter the building, such as capacity, sanitation, etc. Also, consider using curbside pickup where possible.
- Please practice Leave No Trace. Clean up after yourself and leave nothing behind, such as trash and waste.
Before you start planning your garden, ask for advice from the professionals! Maybe you have a friend, family member, or co-worker who gardens that would give tips and tricks on starting a garden? Or even going to your local greenhouse and asking the questions would be beneficial.
Eastern Manitoba Greenhouses
Where you get your seeds, and nursery plants is important. With any of these Eastman greenhouses, you can feel confident that you are getting the best product and service.
Prevost’s Perennials – South Junction
C & S Country Gardens – Lorette
Chevrefils Greenhouse – St. Georges
Fryfogel Flowers – Dugald
Giz’s Garden Centre – New Bothwell
Glenlea Greenhouses – St. Agathe
Golden Plains Greenhouse – Kleefeld
Green Oak Gardens – Beausejour
Green Valley Garden Centre – Grunthal
Margie’s Greenhouse – Lac du Bonnet
Rainbow Mill Gardens – Vivian
Schriemer’s Greenhouses & Garden Centre Ltd – Springfield
Vandermeer Garden Centre – Ile-des-Chenes
Decide What you are Growing
Deciding on what to grow can be overwhelming for new gardeners. For vegetables, fruits, and herbs, think about what your and your family’s favourite veggies are. Keep in mind if you are starting out, keep your list small and add more variety to your garden every season as your knowledge and confidence grows.
Also, make sure your top choices make sense for your area. Figure out your gardening zone and estimate the first and last frost dates. If possible, talk to greenhouse staff, friends, or avid gardeners in your area to figure out what grows well and what doesn’t.
Choose a Location in your Yard
If this is your first year gardening, think about starting small. Commit an area of 10×10 feet for your garden. This is a good “practice” space, so you won’t feel overwhelmed.
Look for a level, sheltered site that’s sunny as most veggies, herbs, and flowers need six to eight hours of full sun each day. However, if your land is primarily shady, some plants can thrive in that environment. Hostas plants, outdoor ferns, bleeding hearts, lungwort, and many other plants grow in shaded areas.
Also, keep in mind that you’ll want to be close to a faucet or rain barrel so watering can be more accessible, avoid high wind areas and frost pockets (low areas where frost is likely to settle).
You want to watch out for wildlife, pet damage and avoid areas that children play in.
Before you head out and start building and working on your garden, you should grab your basic gardening tools.
- Garden hoe
- Scuffle hoe
- Dirt rake
- Leaf rake
- Garden Shovel or D handle Shovel
- Hand tools
Visit your local greenhouse or hardware store to find all the tools you’ll need. And don’t be shy! If you’re new to the game, don’t be afraid to ask questions.
It’s Clean-Up Time
It’s time to start building your garden. Get rid of the sod covering the area you plan to plant. If you want quick results (if it’s already spring and you want veggies this summer), cut it out. Slice under the sod with a spade, cut the sod into sections to make it easier to remove, then put it on your compost pile to decompose.
Preparing your garden in the Fall is better, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t have a beautiful, thriving garden this year.
If you decide to wait till Fall to get rid of sod, It’s easier to smother the grass with newspaper or cardboard. Cover your future garden with five sheets of newspaper. Spread a 3-inch layer of compost (or combination of potting soil and topsoil) on the newspaper and wait. It’ll take about four months for the compost and paper to decompose. But by spring, you’ll have a bed ready to plant with no grass or weeds and plenty of rich soil.
You may also have to add organic matter to your future garden. Add a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost, decayed leaves, dry grass clippings, or old manure to the soil when you dig or till a new bed. If you decide not to dig or work with an established bed, leave the organic matter on the surface, where it will eventually rot into humus (organic material). Earthworms will do most of the work of mixing humus in with the subsoil.
Work the Soil
There are two methods of working soil: Tilling and digging. By doing either of these, you prepare new beds for sowing or planting and allows roots to penetrate the soil more easily to access water and nutrients.
Tilling consists of cultivating the soil with a mechanical device such as a rototiller. This is a suitable method when you need to incorporate large amounts of amendments. However, it can also disturb microorganisms and earthworms. So it’s better to do too little than too much. Excessive tilling and working soil when it’s too wet or dry damages soil structure and plant roots.
Digging is more practical for preparing small beds. Dig only when the soil is moist enough to form a loose ball in your fist but dry enough to fall apart when you drop it. Use a sharp spade or spading fork to gently turn the top 8 to 12 inches of soil, mixing in the organic matter mention above at the same time. (Walking on prepared beds compacts the soil, so lay down boards temporarily to evenly distribute your weight.)
Depending on what you’ve decided to grow, the time of planting will change. We suggest heading down to your local greenhouse and talk with the staff to figure out what vegetable, herb, or flower works for you and your timeline.
A few Other Tips
There is a lot that goes into gardening, but with care, time, and education, you’ll soon have a thriving garden! Here are some other things to keep in mind:
- Wait until the danger of frost is past to start planting.
- Young plants are easier to damage than older plants, so they may need protection or hardening off when they are planted outside.
- Don’t overwater or under water your plants. Always check the moisture of the soil before watering. A rule of thumb for watering is that plants need around one inch of water per week during the growing season. If rains fail, you’ll need to water your garden.
- Bugs are more attracted to plants that are stressed or in some way deficient. If you have healthy, well-nourished plants, your pest problems should be minimal.
- Protect your garden with a couple of inches of mulch. This helps keep weeds out and moisture in.
- Pull weeds before they get big.
- Get rid of dead, dying, and diseased vegetation.
- Support tall plants with trellis, stake, or a tepee.
- Harvest vegetables as soon as they are ready.
This next tip is the most important of all – have fun and enjoy your garden! Whatever results you receive from this new activity, enjoy the process! Gardening is a skill, and with time, effort, and care, you’ll find and develop your green thumb.